At some point in the history of the black-eyed peas and rice dish, Hoppin’ John, it became associated with luck. Eat a bowl of Hoppin’ John with a side of green cabbage and golden cornbread and you’re starting the new year off right! Did you ever wonder where that tradition and name came from?
It’s said that the dish was first made popular in South Carolina. However, there’s no denying the fact that the black-eyed peas came from West Africa during the slave trading. In a Washington Post article, A New Year’s Tradition Born From Slavery, Tim Carman writes, the slave traders started to import black-eyed peas to the United States as some sort of backhanded charitable act. He went on to write that, the natives of West Africa could prepare a dish that reminded them of home.
There are stories that say that in the past, people thought that the black-eyed peas looked like coins, and if you eat them on New Year’s Day, you’ll become lucky and receive money throughout the year. Then, when the black-eyed peas are served with cabbage, which is green like money, and cornbread that looks like gold bars, luck would come to you. But who has a currency that looks like small beans? The luck tradition started during the slave days when the slaves were given the time off between Christmas and New Years. The harvest season was over with and it wasn’t time for planting season. It was a time to reflect on the past year and think about what was to come. Since black-eyed peas were plentiful in the South, it became the dish that the slaves could eat plenty of and it became associated with New Years, and then later on: luck.
Just as there are different versions of why black-eyed peas are considered lucky, there are plenty of versions of how the bean and rice dish became known as Hoppin’ John. One rumor that some believe, like North Carolina State University, is that the name came from the French Creoles of Louisiana who called black-eyed peas, pigeon peas, which looks similar to black-eyed peas. The French Creole term for pigeon pea is poi’s a pigeon, which is pronounced, Pwah peeJon. For those that didn’t speak French Creole, it may have sounded like they were saying, Hoppin’ John.
Whether or not the dish brings you luck or not, it’s a great meal. Traditionally the black-eyed peas are served over a bed of hot cooked rice cooked separately like red beans and rice are. I changed things up a bit and turned this bean and rice dish into the perfect New Year’s Hoppin’ John Jambalaya by adding uncooked rice to the pot of cooking black-eyed peas! As luck would have it, it tastes amazing! It also makes enough to feed a large gathering, like a football party maybe?
It’s important to not forget why black-eyed peas came to the United States and why it became considered lucky by the slaves who looked forward to eating a bowl of the bean dish even if it was just for a brief moment to remember their home, it was important for them. We are fortunate enough to live in a better day and age when we are all equal. We just need to treat each other that way. We’re all just trying to survive in the world, right? If we’re lucky, one day, everyone will be truly happy together.
1 lbs dried black-eyed peas
1 lbs Andouille sausage, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 12-oz salt pork, cut into small pieces
1 onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 cups green onions, chopped
1/4 cup parsley
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp bacon drippings
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp Creole seasoning
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp white pepper
pinch of sage
pinch of thyme
dashes of hot sauce
6 cups chicken stock
1 1/2-cups uncooked rice
Before you use the salt pork, bring a pot of water to a boil, then add the salt pork and boil for about 15-20 minutes. Remove the salt pork from the pot and discard the salty water. If you don’t do this step, the jambalaya will be way too salty.
There’s no green cabbage representing paper money here, but there’s plenty of chopped green onions to mix into the pot. Think of it as a good line of credit. Is that a reach? Stir the green onions in before serving.
Have a great and lucky New Year! I hope you enjoy this New Year’s Hoppin’ John Jambalaya recipe!
Tell us what you think of this recipe in the comments below. If you make it, be sure to snap a photo of it and share it online with your family and friends. Use the hashtag, #RedBeansAndEric, so I can find it!
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